Applied conservation: Ideas tested in real settings

Marine spatial planning

Recent theoretical and empirical evidence suggest that changes in ocean temperature and pH may profoundly impact larval dispersal and population connectivity, yet implications of ocean change for marine reserve planning remain largely unexplored outside of coral reefs. We have developed a conceptual framework for considering the impacts of temperature and ocean acidification on spatially explicit marine conservation activities.  Currently, we are studying the relative and interactive effects of warming and acidification on the probability of dispersal in marine systems.  This work is critical to developing effective conservation strategies in a changing world.

IMG_3464Adaptive management of marine reserves

The success of conservation reserves depends on establishing evidence that they are useful policy strategies in the long term.  Our work on adaptive management of reserves spans from local to global scales. First, we have embraced the policy implications of marine reserves in developing strategies at international scale (e.g., International Whaling Commission Sanctuaries).  While most reserves have focused on near shore and benthic fish and invertebrates, our work has advanced the idea that reserves may benefit wide-ranging species.  Second, we are developing predictive capabilities for the management of marine reserve networks.  We are currently working with Communidad y Biodiversidad to design and implement integrated conservation and management strategies for marine areas in the Gulf of California.  One theme of this work is the development of novel ecological and socioeconomic models to determine the efficacy of marine reserves and the policy changes needed to achieve these goals.  Ultimately, our results will be applied to derive the final conservation and managed areas network in the Gulf of California.

Endangered species recovery

Protection of species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a challenging and often controversial task that requires input from a variety of environmental, economic, social, and political interests.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), responsible for recovery of most listed species, is faced with an increasing workload and decreasing resources.  In light of an increasing list of imperiled species requiring evaluation and protection, we are working with FWS to identify new ways to prioritize conservation actions that can be applied consistently across species and to efficiently allocate recovery funds.

Marine ecosystem services

The Midriff Islands Region, Gulf of California is recognized as a priority site for conservation at an international, national and local level. It is also an excellent region for artisanal, industrial, and sport fishing. However, biodiversity and fisheries in the region are threatened by climate change and resources overexploitation (e.g. unsustainable fishing activities). We are evaluating the ecological and economic impact of a proposed network of marine reserves in the Midriff Islands. Using ecosystem services for evaluating the establishment of a marine reserve network means comparing the value of services with and without the reserves—including the value of the resources in the proposed reserves.